Tech support scams are surging
December 1, 2023 | View PDF
Have you clicked on a website and suddenly a loud voice comes on at the same time as a warning fills your screen? The threatening voice advises that you have been infected with a computer virus, warns you not to turn off your computer, and urges you to immediately call the number on your screen. Or have you received an unsolicited phone call from someone who claims to be from Microsoft, Apple or a security software company to tell you they’ve detected a threat to your computer?
These are both tech support scams, a surging category of fraud and one of the most reported to the Federal Trade Commission. The scammers will try to obtain credit card and bank account information. They may also attempt to gain remote access to your computer and any personal information.
Unfortunately, most of these scams originate outside the U.S. so prosecution is almost impossible. But you don’t have to fall victim to a tech scam. Your best defense is knowing about these scams and being proactive about protecting yourself.
What should you do?
If it’s a phone call, hang up immediately. Do not engage the caller in any conversation. Never give any information such as credit card or banking information to any unsolicited callers. And never give control of your computer to anyone who says they can fix the problem remotely. It’s best to just hang up the phone as soon as you get the call.
If it’s a fake virus alert message, shut down the browser immediately and then shut down your computer. (Use Control-Alt-Delete to bring up the Task Manager and close down the browser.)
Never call the number in the virus alert. And do not click on any links on the screen —even if it shows you are closing the window.
Be sure to use antivirus software that scans your computer regularly. Run the scan after getting any virus pop-up message.
These scammers are relentless and can be awfully convincing. If you do become a victim, contact your bank and credit card company fraud department immediately to cancel your accounts. Have your computer checked out at a local computer repair business. Change all passwords used for the accounts you gave access to. You can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov. The AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 is also a free resource. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. These scammers have made a full-time profession of targeting and scamming computer users.
Michelle Tabler is an AARP Alaska volunteer fraud education expert.